Just before the Super Bowl, water protectors from South Dakota, Minnesota, Iowa, and other parts of the country joined together in Minneapolis to protest the U.S. Bank. They say U.S. Bank did not keep its promise to step away from oil and gas pipelines, including ETP. Seeding Sovereignty, one of the groups participating in the protest, wrote in part: “We are here … to ask US Bank to keep their promise and divest from pipelines. We want them to divest from Energy Transfer Partners who owns the Dakota Access Pipeline, the Rover Pipeline, the Mariner East Pipeline and the Bayou Bridge Pipeline.” What exactly happened and why did protesters choose the day before the Super Bowl to hold their demonstration? Read on for details and to see photos and videos from the protest.
U.S. Bank Had Pledged Not to Support Pipelines, But Activists Say That Promise Wasn’t Kept
This all started in 2017, when U.S. Bank became the first major bank to announce that they would stop financing pipeline construction. The news was announced in their 2017 Environmental Responsibility Policy from April. But activists are arguing that despite their policy, the bank is actually still financing the pipelines, although more indirectly. The best example, one activist group has shared, is that just eight months after the policy was published in 2017, U.S. Bank signed a $5 billion credit agreement with ETP, which is now building even more pipelines.
U.S. Bank’s policy read, in part: “The company does not provide project financing for the construction of oil or natural gas pipelines. Relationships with clients in the oil and gas pipeline industries are subject to the Bank’s enhanced due diligence processes…” This news was celebrated at the time by environmental activists and publishers, but now some activists believe they celebrated too soon. EcoWatch initially reported on the change, which came after the bank had renewed its commitment with Energy Transfer Partners, the company that constructed the Dakota Access Pipeline.
Activists Say U.S. Bank Is Still Funding Pipelines By Giving General Financing to ETP & Other Clients
Some activists are saying that the bank is still financing the pipelines indirectly. And because of this, hundreds showed up for the protest in Minneapolis the day before the Super Bowl, shutting down an intersection in the city:
The Des Moines Register reported that environmentalists came to Minneapolis to protest the four-state pipeline before the Super Bowl on Sunday. The activists say that the Minneapolis-based U.S. Bank financed the $3.8 billion pipeline, completed by ETP in 2017. Ed Fallon, Bold Iowa director, told the Des Moines Register: “U.S. Bank is as complicit as Energy Transfer Partners for abusing eminent domain, trampling the rights of rural landowners, destroying farmers’ soil and crops, and threatening our water and climate. That can change. It needs to change, and we’re turning up the heat to make it happen.”
Meanwhile, U.S. Bank officials pointed to their 2017 Environmental Policy and said that it’s still in place. Spokesman Dana Ripley told the Des Moines Register: “U.S. Bank did not finance the Dakota Access pipeline project. As a matter of policy we do not do project finance.” They do have a banking relationship with ETP, but they said that relationship doesn’t include the pipeline and they “don’t comment on our customer relationships.”
Nation of Change published a story in May 2017 which outlines why activists believe U.S. Bank is still responsible in part for the pipelines. They say that U.S. Bank’s financing to companies like ETP is for general use, which can include pipeline construction, even if it’s not funding the construction directly. U.S. Bank’s clients include Enbridge, ETP, Phillips 66, and Marathon, who all own stakes in the Dakota Access pipeline, among others. So, the article argues, even though U.S. Bank may not be financing at a project level, the funding and credit they give can still be used for the pipelines. During the construction of the DAPL, for example, U.S. Bank gave ETP a $175 million line of credit and then later recommitted to the deal. Nation of Change argues: “If U.S. Bank is going to stop financing pipelines, it has to stop lending at the corporate level, too.”
The Protest Drew Hundreds the Day Before the Super Bowl
The protest began at 12:30 p.m. local time at the headquarters of Minnesota 350 at 2104 Stevens Ave. in Minneapolis. The Super Bowl is taking place at U.S. Bank Stadium, which is why the protest is happening the day before the Super Bowl. Participants included Native and non-Native organizations, and the goal is to pressure the U.S. Bank to stop financing oil pipelines completely. Christine Nobiss, founder of Indigenous Iowa, said: “US Bank funds the extraction industry and allows government-backed corporate conglomerates to move in to poor communities and create havoc.” Here are some more videos from the protest:
Protesters started out by meeting at MN350’s office with Kate Jacobson, Interim Executive Director, to go over the plans for the march. Items like backpacks, signs, and banners were not allowed in the Super Bowl Live area. Many protesters risked bringing their backpacks, which contained bullhorns, signs, and camera equipment. Some wore large signs to carry outside.
Emma Fiala, who photographed the event, shared with Heavy that the protesters met at the U.S. Bank headquarters and had to pass through a security checkpoint right in front of the bank they were protesting. Members of the Native community kicked off the protest and then activists marched down Nicollet Mall. “We took over an intersection in a highly visible and high traffic area where there was more chanting and more speakers.”
From there, activists continued marching past the Minneapolis Convention Center and back to the MN350 office. The police followed the marchers, but there were no confrontations. The protest was peaceful, no one was arrested, and everyone was safe.
The Concern Doesn’t Stop with the DAPL; Now the Bayou Bridge Pipeline Is Drawing Worries
The concern doesn’t stop with the Dakota Access Pipeline. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers just granted a permit to ETP for a Bayou Bridge Pipeline in Louisiana. Activists and water protectors are concerned this will put indigenous people and the environment at risk, and are pointing out that an environmental impact review was not performed. The Corps, meanwhile, has said that it weighed the energy benefits and is “ensuring environmental protections remain in place.” However, ETP recently confirmed that the pipeline has been rerouted to go around the L’eau Est La Vie resistance camp. But Cherri Foytlin, a representative for the camp, said that while they’re glad for the news, they still have grave concerns for their neighbors.
Here are more photos from the march the day before the Super Bowl: